How popular brand YETI made their expensive coolers a status symbol in America

  • YETI coolers have become a status symbol in the United States.
  • The expensive, high-tech coolers range between $US200 and $US1,300.
  • The company is currently valued at $US1.5 billion.
  • The technology used to make the coolers, combined with a highly effective marketing campaign, has made YETI a popular lifestyle brand that also makes apparel, drinkware, and even pet products.

Graham Flanagan: YETI is known for its expensive coolers that have become a status symbol in America. This is their most expensive, the 82-gallon Tundra 350, that retails for $US1,300. Since the company was founded in 2006, YETI has become an iconic brand. And they make a lot more than just coolers. Drinkware, apparel, and even dog bowls.

But the coolers are what they’re best known for. Like the popular Tundra 35 that retails for $US250. But you can get a comparably-sized cooler from legacy brands like Coleman and Igloo for around $US40. Why are YETI coolers so expensive? There are two pretty simple answers: technology and marketing.

The Austin, Texas-based company was founded by the Seiders brothers: two avid outdoorsmen who felt there weren’t any coolers on the market that kept their catches, kills, and beverages cold enough for long enough. They teamed up with a factory in the Philippines to create a cooler that they described as indestructible, with superior ice retention.

Their first cooler hit the market in 2006. If you were serious about keeping your catches, kills and “brewskies” as cold as possible, you needed a YETI.

Fisherman: Whoop. Don’t worry it’s a YETI.

Flanagan: So, how do they work? The cooler’s shell is made of a common plastic called polyethylene with a process called rotomolding, which uses high temperature and low pressure to create one piece of hollow plastic. Rotomolding is also used to make kayaks. The shell is pressure injected with up to three inches of commercial-grade polyurethane foam. And that’s what keeps your beers, I mean, that’s what keeps your catches and kills cold for so long.

The coolers feature a full-frame, freezer-quality gasket that seals around the entire lid to minimise air exchange. And I can tell you from experience, they work. But are they worth the high price tag? I asked on of those questions on my Facebook profile, and the responses were mixed.

“Definitely.”

“They’re heavy AF.” They are heavy.

“No.”

“There are cheaper brands that work just as well.”

There are some rotomolded YETI competitors like Orca, OtterBox and RTIC, that are slightly cheaper, but still comparably priced. None of them have been able to create the brand phenomenon that YETI has seen.

In October of 2018, YETI went public when they filed an IPO on the New York Stock Exchange. And the company’s market cap is now estimated at $US1.5 billion.

So, how are YETI coolers able to carry that high price tag? Marketing. Highly effective marketing. And their campaign to ramp up the population of YETI nation is just getting started. The company recently hired the former head of marketing for Calvin Klein to be its Chief Marketing Officer. And the company’s effective use of the all-American, rugged, outdoor lifestyle keeps customers coming back for more.

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